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Can You Get EI if You Quit Your Job

Written by Jessica Steer
In Canada, if you’re unemployed, you could qualify for the Employment Insurance program. This program provides income support while you’re going to school or looking for a job. You can also qualify for funds if you’re unable to work due to illness or injury.
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    That said, with the EI program, there are specific qualifications that you need to meet in order to be eligible. Depending on your circumstances, there are hours requirements and employment restrictions you need to meet according to the Employment Insurance Act. There are also certain conditions based on the reason you’re unemployed. This leaves many people wondering: do you qualify if you’re unemployed?

    Quitting Your Job and Employment Insurance

    Ordinarily, when you quit your job, you aren’t eligible for EI. That said, there are always exceptions. In this case, you can receive EI benefits if you quit your job as long as you have “just cause.” What’s just cause exactly? Just cause is when you quit due to health reasons, or your job isn’t considered to be safe or no longer bearable. 

    If you’re looking into voluntarily leaving your job due to health issues, including stress, it’s likely you’ll still be eligible for EI. That said, you don’t have to. Another option is to go on EI sickness benefits instead. Before December 2022, you could only get up to 15 weeks of benefits. Now, with the significant changes to EI, you can get up to 26 weeks of sick leave. Depending on your income, whether you’re on sickness or regular EI benefits, the maximum benefit you can receive is $650 per week. 

    If you're taking an authorized period of leave, it’s also considered as quitting your job, so the same rules apply. You only qualify for EI if your leave is for a just cause. Since Employment Insurance is a federal program, no matter where you live in Canada, the same rules apply. 

    What You’re Entitled to When You Quit Your Job

    In Canada, what you’re entitled to when you voluntarily leave your job depends on your specific job. With that in mind, though, your employer is required to pay you any owed wages as soon as they can, whether you’ve given them notice or not. 

    Depending on your position, you may be entitled to more than just your wages. If you have any banked time, vacation pay, holiday time or overtime, these will also need to be paid out. If you have a pension package with your employer, you’ll receive a package stating how much is in your pension and what your options are. Don’t be stressed if you don’t receive it right away, though. For most companies, it’s common for them to wait at least 6 months after you voluntarily quit to send you your pension options. 

    For those with benefits, you’ll receive notice on when your benefits will end. With most insurance companies, you have until the end of the month that you’ve paid for. 

    EI and Going Back to School

    In some cases, EI does cover you when you’re going to school. The circumstances can vary depending on your individual situation. That said, normally, you don’t get approved for EI when you voluntarily quit your job to go to school. However, you could qualify if you get permission from your province/territory or indigenous organization. 

    If you’ve been in the workforce for a while, then it’s possible you can get approved for EI benefits by Service Canada to attend school full-time while still receiving income support. If you choose to go to school while you’re on EI without permission, you may still have to prove that you’re looking for employment. If you have to go to school for your employment but aren’t getting paid while you go, you could also qualify for EI. This is common for those who are in the trades. 

    Getting EI When You’ve Been Fired or Laid Off

    If you’ve been fired from your job for misconduct, you actually don’t qualify for regular benefits and will be denied EI. You have to work the required hours minimum before you can qualify for regular benefits. With that said, though, it’s only the regular benefits that you’re unable to qualify for. You can still receive EI special benefits such as parental benefits, maternity benefits, sickness benefits and compassionate care benefits as long as you meet the requirements. 

    If you’re working a seasonal job or have a term contract and lose your job due to misconduct before your layoff or end date, you won’t be able to receive employment insurance benefits until you’ve reached your contract date or your layoff date. Once you’ve reached that date, there’s a two-week waiting period before you can start receiving benefits. However, if you’ve lost your job due to constructive dismissal, you’re still eligible for EI. 

    If you feel you were fired for the wrong reasons, then you can talk to an employment lawyer, and they’ll help you take the next steps. There are also different resources available, including the Human Rights Legislation Act, if you decide to file a complaint. 

    How to Prove Just Cause for EI

    If you’ve quit your job and are looking into getting EI, you have to show just cause to quit in order to qualify. You need to show that you took all the necessary steps available to avoid unemployment and it was the only reasonable alternative before you made the decision to leave your job voluntarily. These include:

    • Discuss the situation with your employer and the union representative
    • Use resources available within your collective agreement or employment contract
    • Anticipate and consider alternate duties
    • Use the legislation act

    In some cases, though, the reasonable alternatives to quitting don’t work. In these situations, there’s not much you can do and choosing voluntary leave from your job is the only reasonable choice. Here is a list of all the circumstances (legitimate reasons) that could qualify.

    • Experience sexual or other harassment
    • Discrimination
    • Employer breaking the law
    • Workers pressure to quit by employer or fellow workers
    • Dangerous work environment
    • Major changes in your job affecting wages, salary, work duties and work schedule
    • Having to care for a dependent child or immediate family members, including a common-law partner
    • Reasonable assurance of another job (in the immediate future)
    • Excessive overtime work
    • Employers refusal to pay overtime
    • Difficult relations with your employer

    No matter what the reason is, though, it has to be proven to EI to get approval. Both you and your employer will submit reasoning for your decision to quit. From there, the agent will decide on your approval. 

    General Requirements for EI Eligibility

    In order to get approved for EI regular benefits, there are a few general requirements. These are:

    • Were previously employed with insurable employment
    • You haven’t worked or been paid for 7 consecutive days within the last year
    • You’re willing and able to work
    • You’re actively looking for work
    • You have the required hours in the last year or since your last claim
    • Lost your job for a reason that wasn’t your fault

    The required number of hours you need to qualify is different for everyone. Each province will have different requirements, but generally, you need between 400 and 700 hours. In some cases, you could need up to 104 hours. 


    In Canada, as long as you’ve worked the required insurable hours, you could fill out an EI application and qualify for Employment Insurance. If you qualify and what you qualify for depends on your individual situation. In most cases, you need to lose your job through no fault of your own in order to be approved. That said, there are some exceptions. If you leave your job with just cause, then you could still get approval for EI. If you’re looking to quit for health reasons, then you could always go on EI sickness benefits before you finally decide to quit altogether. 

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